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Police: Missing fisherman may have faked his own death

Giusseppe Reinhart shoved off on his boat from Crystal Beach Tuesday morning to go fishing alone on Lake Erie.

His empty boat washed up on the lake shore in Hamburg at about 1 p.m. that afternoon, showing signs that it had recently been occupied, the Coast Guard said.

The vessel was found on Wanakah Beach loaded with beer, fishing poles and recently caught fish. A man-overboard signal was beating when the vessel was recovered.

Now authorities are looking for the 37-year-old Niagara Falls. Ont., man, searching by air and on the water.

Police don’t believe this is a simple missing person case.

Authorities are looking into the possibility that Giusseppe Reinhart, who served prison time for manslaughter, may have tried to fake his own death.

Reinhart was sentenced in February 2008 to 15 years in prison after he pled guilty to manslaughter in the stabbing death of Jeramie J. Gallagher, according to the Niagara Falls (Ont.) Review.

Gallagher was stabbed 11 times in August 2005 during an altercation in a Niagara Falls parking lot and the pair had “a history of bad blood,” according to the newspaper.

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Gallery: Lake Erie search for missing fisherman

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Reinhart’s mother and brother said Wednesday they are worried about him and had questions about the circumstances.

But they balked at the notion he would have had something to do with his own disappearance.

“One-hundred-percent ‘No.’ I cannot see him doing that,” said his brother Albert Reinhart.

When police came to interview the family, they asked whether they thought Giusseppe – who goes by Joe – would have attempted suicide or tried to flee the country.

Their answers: “No way.”

They said he was an avid fisherman who doesn’t know how to swim.

“He can’t swim,” said Enelia Reinhart, Giusseppe’s mother.

Her son loves to fish, which is easy to tell based on all the pictures posted on his Facebook page.

He’s gone fishing four days in a row. By phone Wednesday morning, she called fishing “his life” and said he would never cross over into American waters.

She said she’s sick over her missing son.

He was supposed to close Wednesday on his “little dream house” up in North Bay, Ont., about 4½ hours north of Niagara Falls.

Based on that, the concerned mother called the situation “really suspicious.”

“Nothing makes sense,” she said.

Albert Reinhart shared his mother’s skepticism about what may have happened to his brother out on the water.

“I find it hard to believe that he would fall” off the boat,” Albert Reinhart said.

Giusseppe Reinhart would go out fishing for hours at a time, usually leaving around 5 or 6 a.m., his brother said.

On Tuesday morning, though, he left much earlier – at about 3 a.m.

Albert Reinhart described his brother, who got out of prison about two years ago, as “a phenomenal fisherman” and the boat he was using when he went missing as a “real flimsy little boat.” A Coast Guard spokeswoman said the rowboat, which had an outboard motor, is 15 to 16 feet long.

Albert said he doesn’t know if his brother was wearing a life vest.

“I’m always telling him as the big brother, but he never listened,” he said.

His brother knew better than to try to cross the border, and his expected closing on a “dream house” in North Bay was important to him.

“He was going to finally find peace and serenity,” Albert Reinhart said. “Then this happened.”

Boaters – as well as Buffalo area law enforcement – are being asked to keep a lookout for him.

As of 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, rescuers searched more than 2,300 square miles, the Coast Guard said.

The search area extends from Crystal Beach, Ont., to just past the entrance to Niagara River to the Peace Bridge, and continuing through Buffalo, Lackawanna and Hamburg.

Crews from across the northeast are in the air and in the water looking for Reinhart, including from Detroit; Erie, Pa.; Cape Cod; Trenton, Ont.; as well as local units from Niagara County and Hamburg.

Anyone who may have any information about Reinhart is asked to call Coast Guard Sector Buffalo at 843-9527.

email: abesecker@buffnews.com

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